Community Law Center

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Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on February 26, 2015.

February 26, 2015

11:00 a.m. cases

I. Transfers and amendments:

Applicant Embaye Kebrab
Business Name BINI, LLC
Trading As Bini
Address 2300 Orem Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes Withdrawn by the applicant.
Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Parkview/Woodbrook
Area demographics 6% White, 90% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 28% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,502.54; 28% of households living below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Not held, because the application was withdrawn by the applicant before the hearing.
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Brenna Gonzalvez & Brian Reyes
Business Name Mi Ranchito, LLC
Trading As Mi Ranchito
Address 1114-16 Hollins Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants, who were present at the hearing, along with the current licensee, Mr. James Collins. Kodenski told the commissioners that the applicants have met with the Hollins Roundhouse association and they have already been running the business for six or seven months. Hollins Roundhouse holds their community meetings at the restaurant. The applicants have just gotten a contract with the University of Maryland to do catering on campus, since it is close by.

Commissioner Moore asked whether there were three valid character witnesses on the application, since the documents provided to her just showed two. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth confirmed with the commissioners that Mr. Kodenski had submitted additional names and signatures, but she couldn’t find them in the file during the hearing.

Mr. Kodenski told the commissioners that the Board should do away with the character witness requirement in the Code, which can only be removed by the Maryland state legislature. Commissioner Jones asked Kodenski how many years he has been saying the same thing.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Hollins Market
Area demographics 83% Black, 13% White; 31% households have children under age 18; median household income: $19.183; 38% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) states that an application must be complete 14 days before the Board schedules a hearing. This application may or may not have been complete two weeks ahead of time, with all the required signatures.

II. Hardship Extensions:

Applicant Ryan Perlberg
Business Name Shot Tower, LLC
Trading As Willow
Address 811 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing Request for an hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the BLLC, represented the landlord of the building at 811 S. Broadway. Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the licensee, Mr. Perlberg, who was present at the hearing. Both parties were requesting the hardship extension.

Mr. Fogleman went through the timeline of the case; he explained that he had written to the Board on behalf of his client on February 5, 2015, requesting a hardship extension. On February 5, the landlord and the licensee were in conflict regarding possible litigation relating to the landlord’s eviction of Mr. Perlberg on November 7, 2014. Since that time, the landlord and licensee have come close to a settlement regarding the outstanding legal issues. Fogleman explained that the landlord knew that the premises were open and operating as late as August 10, 2014, and, out of an abundance of caution, filed a hardship extension request on February 5, which was the 179th day after August 10. However, since that time, the landlord has learned that Mr. Perlberg’s business was open for the Fells Point Fun Fest, which ran from October 3 to 5, 2014. In view of this, Fogleman requested that the Board grant a 180-day extension from the end of the first 180 day time period, giving a total of 360 days, which is the maximum allowed by the statute.

Commissioner Moore asked for evidence that would support Mr. Perlberg’s claim that he was open in October. Mr. Hurdle, Perlberg’s attorney, told the Board that they did not come with any receipts or evidence to show that the business was open; Mr. Perlberg did testify under oath that he was open through October 5, 2014, however. Commissioner Jones pointed out that the landlord and licensee both knew that they would be asking for the Board to make this determination and asked why no one brought any receipts or proof. Jones pointed out that Fogleman should have known better, since he was recently the Chair of the Board.

Commissioner Moore asked, what is the nature of the hardship? Fogleman explained that the licensee/tenant was evicted from the property. In the meantime, the landlord has interested parties who would want to open a business at this location, but the transfer to any new tenant would be predicated on the licensee’s signing a transfer authorization. As of the date of the hardship extension request, the landlord did not know whether the tenant would be willing to sign such a document. Since the parties were not able to agreee, the license was in danger of expiration.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-504(d) says that “on a finding that undue hardship currently exists causing the closing or cessation of business operations, the Board may grant an extension of the life of the license for a time period not to exceed 360 days as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5) of this subsection.” The landlord’s attorney explained that the conflict between the licensee and the landlord was the “undue hardship,” but he did not make clear whether this conflict caused the closing of business operations. It was also not clear why this conflict was a hardship or was undue.

Applicant Lana Farnsworth
Business Name L. Cees, Inc.
Trading As Taylor’s East
Address 1201 N. Potomac Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that this hearing would be postponed for another date.
Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Berea
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally None taken
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) states: “The postponement of a hearing shall be posted online not less than 72 hours before the hearing date.” This postponement was not posted online at all.

Applicants William Malkin & Eugene McDowell
Business Name Sushi Place II, LLC
Trading As no trade name provided in docket
Address 1400 E. Key Highway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing Request for an hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that this hearing would be postponed for another date.
Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Riverside
Area demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian. 3% Hispanic ethnicity. 15% households have children under age 18. Median household income: $73,342. 8% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally None taken
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) states: “The postponement of a hearing shall be posted online not less than 72 hours before the hearing date.” This postponement was not posted online at all.

1:00 p.m. cases

III. Violations:

Licensees Michael Buenger & Carolyn Lissau
Business Name Diamond Jim, Inc.
Trading As Diamond Lounge
Address 415 E. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/ Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – December 21, 2014 – At approximately 10:15 pm police responded to 415 E Baltimore Street to an establishment known as the “Diamond Lounge” for a cutting. Police met with the victim who stated he was attacked by a man who he knew to be employed as security personnel at the establishment. According to the victim the employee engaged in a verbal altercation with the victim, then went behind the bar, grabbed a knife, and then stabbed the victim in the arm. Police were able to identify the suspect and confirm that the suspect was employed as a bouncer at the establishment.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – December 21, 2014 – At approximately 10:15 pm police responded to 415 E Baltimore Street to an establishment known as the “Diamond Lounge” for a cutting. Police met with the victim who stated he was attacked by a man who he knew to be employed as security personnel at the establishment. According to the victim the employee engaged in a verbal altercation with the victim, then went behind the bar, grabbed a knife, and then stabbed the victim in the arm. Police were able to identify the suspect and confirm that the suspect was employed as a bouncer at the establishment.

Violation of Adult Entertainment: Rule 9 Codes Compliance – December 21, 2014 – At approximately 10:15 pm police responded to 415 E Baltimore Street to an establishment known as the “Diamond Lounge” for a cutting. Police met with the victim who stated he was attacked by a man who he knew to be employed as security personnel at the establishment. According to the victim the employee engaged in a verbal altercation with the victim, then went behind the bar, grabbed a knife, and then stabbed the victim in the arm. Police were able to identify the suspect and confirm that the suspect was employed as a bouncer at the establishment.

Violation of Adult Entertainment: Rule 14 Other Standards – December 21, 2014 – At approximately 10:15 pm police responded to 415 E Baltimore Street to an establishment known as the “Diamond Lounge” for a cutting. Police met with the victim who stated he was attacked by a man who he knew to be employed as security personnel at the establishment. According to the victim the employee engaged in a verbal altercation with the victim, then went behind the bar, grabbed a knife, and then stabbed the victim in the arm. Police were able to identify the suspect and confirm that the suspect was employed as a bouncer at the establishment.

Hearing notes The case was not called.
Zoning B-5-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Not called
Vote tally None taken
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) states: “The postponement of a hearing shall be posted online not less than 72 hours before the hearing date.” This postponement was not posted online at all. The Code does not specifically exclude violation hearings from this section, but the section is in the part of the Code that deals with applications for transfers and new licenses, not violations.

Licensee Yosief Tesfazion
Business Name Opposite Sidewalk Saloon, Inc.
Trading As Opposite Sidewalk Saloon
Address 132 S. Carey Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 5.03: BD7 – January 29, 2015 – At approximately 6:35pm Inspectors visited the establishment known as the “Opposite Sidewalk Saloon” located at 132 South Carey Street for complaints of loitering. Upon arriving at the establishment, both inspectors – who did not identify themselves as inspectors and were posing as patrons – attempted to gain access to the bar area and were denied by the bar manager/operator. Inspectors then observed a customer ask for entry into the bar and he was denied access. At this point inspectors revealed themselves and informed the bar manager/operator of the violation.

Violation of Rule 3.06: Sanitation and Safety – January 29, 2015 – At approximately 6:35pm Inspectors visited the establishment known as the “Opposite Sidewalk Saloon” located at 132 South Carey Street for complaints of loitering. An inspection of the location revealed that stock for sale was both lined within the hallway and not elevated 2 inches off the floor. At this point inspectors revealed themselves and informed the bar manager/operator of the violation.

Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the licensee, with three additional witnesses.

Mr. Thomas Akras, Deputy Executive Secretary of the BLLC first called Liquor Board Inspector Joann Martin to testify about what she saw on January 29, 2015. Ms. Martin stated that she and Chief Inspector Shelton Jones were across the street at B & O Tavern, posting the closure sign, when she observed numerous people loitering at the Opposite Sidewalk Saloon. She and Jones walked over and saw about six to eight people on the sidewalk, around the entrance of the bar. Ms. Martin was forced to walk around them, because they were blocking the entrance. She went inside the BD-7 establishment, which is divided into a package goods section and a bar section; she tried to open the door to the bar section, but it was locked. She asked the clerk behind the plexiglass in the package goods department if she could get in the bar section, and he told her no, that the bar was closed. She confirmed that the bar was closed and that he would not let her in. A patron outside was complaining about the line to buy package goods, so Inspectors Martin and Jones told him that he could go in the bar area and be served. When the patron tried to open the locked door to the bar area, the clerk told the patron that it was closed. At that point, Martin and Jones identified themselves as Liquor Board inspectors, showing their badges and identification. The inspectors were then allowed in the back of the bar and did a routine inspection of the premises. Martin said that she found trash in piles in the back, which blocked the way to the bathroom. She also found stock stacked up on the staircase to the second floor.

Under cross-examination, Martin said that the building does have “no loitering” signs posted outside. Kodenski pointed out that the Liquor Board’s Rules and Regulations do not state that stock has to be stored two inches above the ground. Martin responded that it must be in the health code. Kodenski also argued that the “trash” to which Martin referred wasn’t garbage but was cardboard boxes to be recycled. The main point of contention was about whether patrons are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages in the package good section of the establishment. Rule 5.03 doesn’t technically forbid this practice.

Mr. Embaye Kebrab was identified as the clerk behind the bar at the time, but he did not testify to anything further than this. Presumably, this is the same Embaye Kebrab who was the applicant for the transfer of the license at the top of the docket for the day, an application which was withdrawn.

Chief Inspector Shelton Jones then testified that, in the back of the building, he saw an exit door that was locked with a deadbolt. He said that this is a fire hazard, because patrons who needed to exit the building would have to find the key to unlock the door before they could get out, in an emergency. Jones testified that he has been in this particular bar at least three other times and has spoken to the licensee and his wife and to the clerk on duty at the time, in reference to the bar not being open, in violation of the law. Jones testified that loitering arrests have been made at this establishment. He said that licensees have been held responsible for loitering in front of their businesses. Kodenski argued that it can’t be the licensee’s responsibility to police this, because it is not safe for them to do so. At a bar called the Birdcage, according to Kodenski, a licensee asked loiterers to move along and was shot and killed in front of his bar.

On behalf of the licensee, a patron named David Ellis testified that the bar is open every day, that he goes there and drinks Bud Ice in the bar area and watches football and baseball. Ellis said that the licensee made improvements to the building when he took over, including new furniture and TVs.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Union Square
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 36% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,513.80; 30% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 4
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for both violations. $1250 fine for both.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that he found the licensee responsible for both of the charges, because he believed the inspectors’ testimony that the back door was locked, that there was loitering blocking the entrance, that the bar portion of the tavern was closed, and that there were sanitation violations inside.

As Ward started to move on to the penalties assessed for the violations, Kodenski asked the Chairman to take a vote from the other two commissioners on the issue of responsibility for the charges. Ward became angry at this suggestion and said that he did not need to take a vote from Moore and Jones, because “[he] decides the law!” Ward told Kodenski that he was being disrespectful to him and reiterated that Ward alone was responsible for deciding violations of the law.

Kodenski, in mitigation, said that his client was normally responsible, that there is a large drug problem in the area. The licensee was in his home country of Eritrea, because his mother was ill, which is when the violation occurred.

Because of this clear record, Ward said that a fine would be a more appropriate penalty than a suspension. Ward originally suggested a fine over the $500 statutory maximum from Article 2B section 16-507(d)(1). Commissioner Jones and Mr. Akras corrected the Chairman about the maximum fine for the first violation. Commissioner Moore suggested a $500 fine for the first violation and a $750 fine for the second. She and Jones joined in Ward’s finding that the licensee was responsible for the violations.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B does not set aside special duties or responsibilities for the chairperson of the Liquor Board. Section 15-101(a)(2) says that the Governor will designate one of the commissioners to be the chairperson, but the law does not define what it means to be the chairperson. It is unclear why Chairman Ward stated that the chairperson alone determines responsibility for a violation. This is not consistent with how the Board has historically operated, which is that the commissioners vote on both responsibility for a violation as well as the punishment for a violation.

Licensee Siam Mason
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Yolo Bar and Lounge
Address 4502-04 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – January 3, 2015/August 1, 2014/July 4, 2014/February 8, 2014 – On January 7, 2015 BLLC conducted a review of Baltimore City police reports from 2014 and 2015 of criminal incidences at the establishment known at “Yolo Bar and lounge” located at 4502 Erdman Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. A review of the record indicates that there were a number of criminal incidents that occurred during 2014 and 2015 that taken as a whole show a persistent pattern of violent and disruptive activity that cause a nuisance to the surrounding area. On January 3, 2015 there was a homicide that occurred in the bar. The victim was a patron seated at the bar who was shot in the back of the head while at the bar. On August 1, 2014, police responded to the scene to break up a crowd of patrons who were involved in a fight. Some individuals involved in the fight were actual employees of the establishment. July 4, 2014 police had to respond to the scene to break up loitering and loud noise coming from the establishment. On February 8, 2014 police responded to the location in report of a shooting that occurred on the parking lot of the establishment after a verbal altercation that occurred in the establishment.

Hearing notes The case was not called.
Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Orchard Ridge
Area demographics 32% White, 53% Black/African-American, 1% Asian; 11% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $31,970; 16% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Not called
Vote tally None taken
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) states: “The postponement of a hearing shall be posted online not less than 72 hours before the hearing date.” This postponement was not posted online at all. The Code does not specifically exclude violation hearings from this section, but the section is in the part of the Code that deals with applications for transfers and new licenses, not violations.

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